British warships in a ‘revolutionary’ NATO experiment


The Royal Navy says their British the ships paved the way for “groundbreaking” stand-alone NATO exercises off the coast of Portugal.

The frigate HMS Lancaster and the minehunter HMS Hurworth have tested the use of unmanned technologies – from drones to underwater surveillance vessels, which could be used by NATO on the front line of operations in the future.

“During the month-long trials, more than 11 warships, 120 autonomous vehicles and 1,500 military and civilian personnel from 15 NATO nations took over the waters near Portugal’s Troia Peninsula. It’ is the first time the Royal Marine sent ships to the exercise, with previous participation involving unmanned boats and drones. It is an enhanced presence in the exercise, hosted by the Portuguese Marinecomes as this year marks the 650th anniversary of the Treaty of Tagilde between England and Portugal – the oldest alliance in the world.

HMS Lancaster played a key role in serving as the command center for the multitude of autonomous systems, providing information to other ships in the task force to enable them to make critical decisions during the many scenarios. This allowed the task force to see and use the range of drones, underwater vehicles and ships.

Jim Beaton, the Royal Marine and UK exercise manager said:

“REPMUS 22 was a game-changer, first by testing an off-the-shelf autonomous combat system in HMS Lancaster, from which we were able to distribute a working image of the autonomous system to a group of NATO work. This is a huge step forward, and we have taken it forward to support two permanent members of NATO Naval Forces. Dynamic Messenger allowed us to take autonomy at sea in a NATO context. In addition, we were able to bring some of the Marinenewer exercise operators, getting their feedback on the system and starting to push that experience back into the fleet.”

What has been tested?

The first was REPMUS – a proving ground designed to enable large-scale experiments for NATO navies and their industrial partners. During this period, the vessels and the unmanned technology were put to the test in a series of scenarios above, on and under water.

“Exercise Dynamic Messenger followed, where the proven unmanned systems were integrated into operations at sea and ashore. This was the first exercise under NATO command to use autonomous underwater systems, testing readiness for a variety of challenges, including underwater threats and sea mines.

HMS Lancaster conducted trials with Puma, an unmanned aerial vehicle primarily used for surveillance. The battery-powered, hand-launched drone is designed to deal with harsh environments around the world and is primarily used for intelligence gathering.


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